One thing comes to mind with CarGo: power, power, power. But he can run, too: between 2010 and 2013, he posted four consecutive 20/20 years – at least 20 home runs and 20 stolen bases apiece. At his best, he is a dynamic, disruptive mix of power and speed that would bolster any club’s offense; the fact that he’s a lefty, too, is icing on the run-scoring cake.
We started talking about home/away splits and so I’ll return to it.
In general, we see a lot less home/away stability with CarGo than we do with Fowler. The huge spreads in Gonzalez’s BABIP definitely make me question how many of his balls-in-play are Colorado-aided. He has some pretty wild OPS splits, having averaged a 225-point difference in home/away OPS over the past four years.
Look at these numbers long enough and you begin to question whether Gonzalez is a star hitter at all. When the non-Coors production is so down in so many different ways, why would a team bother coveting this player?
To bring myself back from the proverbial ledge, I focused on the fact that he’s a power hitter, and his isolated power splits are remarkably stable – they’re worse away, but they’re not much worse, and better yet, they’re worse within a fairly narrow, confined range. Also, I looked at his fly ball-to-home run rates over the same four-year span. At home, 22.8% of his fly balls became home runs, and while that number was down to 19.2%, it wasn’t down by much. This would also suggest CarGo’s power is no mere Coors Field product.[table “” not found /]
Gonzalez spent the first two years of his career in Oakland. His first season was a struggle, but his second, break-out season is instructive. It clearly shows a player who can hit with pop, and get on base in a decidedly non-Coors environment. He’ll always strike out plenty and draw fewer walks than one might like, but every team in the majors would be giddy with a left-handed bat putting up 2009-style numbers.
On the defensive side, Gonzalez is literally middle-of-the-pack; of 18 qualifying right fielders, he posted the 9th best UZR (-1.3.) He has extensive experience playing all outfield positions, but he was never a great defensive outfielder and he’s never going to get paid to be, either. He earns his paycheck hitting.
Gonzalez is owed $17 million in 2016 and $20 million in 2017. Between 2010 and 2015, he’s generated an average of 3.0 FanGraphs WAR, with a high of 5.8 (2010) and a low of -0.5 (2014.) His contract is well within market rates. Assuming he can stay on the field (2015 was only the second time in his career he made 600 plate appearances) and assuming his away-from-Coors metrics aren’t a massive danger signal, his contract might even be a bargain.
He’s only 30, his contract is market-rate or better, he’s a left-handed power hitter with speed and he’s good enough defensively. That’s a rare combination of traits and perpetually in demand. He will fetch a premium price no matter serious the considerable downside risk.
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